What is the Difference Between Memory and Storage?

November 21, 2017 by
What is the Difference Between Memory and Storage?
Lighthouse IT Solutions, Matthew Almendinger

RAM (DIMMS) and Disks (Drives)

A computer must have both memory and storage to function properly. Despite both sounding like they do the same job, each has their own task and need each other to function. That then begs the question; what is the difference between storage and memory?

Storage is akin to a bank vault in certain ways. It is opened only for two reasons, a withdrawal or a deposit. In computer terms this is known as read and write respectively. Storage does, however, come in several different forms. Some of these forms include: Spindle disk (HDD), flash memory (SSD), or network storage (Cloud-based). Storage is what all computers use to store their files. This means any document or spreadsheet and all applications use storage. But by contrast, memory (RAM) is used whenever the computer is in a task. This is also known as temporary memory because it is volatile. (You can learn more about RAM here.) Anything that would require the computer to do something requires memory. A few examples of this include: browsing the web, checking emails, or using programs. While not coming in different forms like storage; memory does also come in different speeds and sizes. These speeds determine how fast the memory can talk to the processor and other parts of the computer.

RAM is memory that the computer uses like short-term memory in a brain. Storage is more like the long-term memories that your brain stores to keep pulling back up when it is needed. You would not be able to store your bank pin in the RAM portion of your brain (short term memory) since you would need to access it frequently over a long time-span, so that is where storage would come into play. In contrast though, it would not be necessary to store all the old revisions of a word document (even after you saved) because that would just be taking up space. RAM can be used here to temporarily store it until the computer shuts down.

Hopefully this made the differences as to what memory and storage do more apparent. Storage is the safe that is opened when something is needed in or out of it. Memory is the messenger of the computer making sure everything is communicating properly. Both are extremely important to a computers functionality and should not be looked over when thinking about upgrades and initial purchasing.

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